Category Archives: Hedley Times

Birds, Food & Clown at Hedley Reunion

The Hedley Reunion on August 9 demonstrated again that former

Kerry Lomax & Curtis Armstrong inspecting the meat.
Kerry Lomax & Curtis Armstrong inspecting the meat.

residents have deep roots here. They came from Princeton, Keremeos, the Okanagan Valley, Victoria, and as far away as Alberta and the Maritimes. For some it was an opportunity to connect with former classmates they had not seen since graduating from high school.

Planning for the event began a year ago when Don Armstrong of Hedley and Darryl McDonald of Keremeos started brainstorming about a reunion. They enlisted longtime Hedley resident Judy Turner and made the decision to get serious.

Jan Leake and daughter Cassie delighted children with face painting. In the afternoon the crowd was entertained by Jason Charters of Merritt who bills himself as the “Get Down Rodeo Clown.” He had brought his “assistants”, a couple of wonderfully realistic, long legged and nimble footed marionettes. Attached to him with wires and poles, one danced seductively in front of him and the other behind. Their enthusiasm, energy and sassy demeanour greatly pleased onlookers.

Postmaster Ruth Woodin opened the Beer Garden at 2 pm and toward dinner time appetites were aroused by the enticing aroma of 60 pounds of inside round roast sizzling on the Keremeos Fire Department’s giant barbeque. Head chef was Curtis Armstrong, ably assisted by Kerry Lomax, both of Kelowna.

Removing the meat from the extremely hot rod proved to be a challenge. Don Armstrong needed to run to his home and find several pairs of additional gloves. “We were just a bunch of amateurs doing this for the first time,” he said. A number of salads and desserts were supplied by the ladies of Hedley. With all that good food in their stomachs, guests may have needed a little respite to prepare for the Street Dance.

Music for the dance was provided by the Blackbirds of Keremeos. “They did our kind of music,” Judy Turner said. “People got up to dance, some of whom I didn’t think would. There were about 150 people all over the street.” The high octane Blackbirds brought an aura of vibrant enthusiasm and excitement. All comments about the band were favourable, including from people who enjoyed the music sitting on their patios at home.

When it was over, each of the organizers gave a lot of credit to the numerous individuals who played a role. And each expressed positive thoughts about the year long experience of making it happen. “It was a success for me,” Darryl McDonald said. “I got to meet a lot of people I had not seen since high school.” Judy Turner summed it up with “I had fun. Maybe we’ll do something else next year.” Don said, “everyone was happy. And if there is money left over, we will donate it to the organizations of Hedley.”

The Reunion brought people together and renewed relationships. Also, it once again demonstrated that the citizens of Hedley have mastered the art of throwing an exciting, class act party.


Meeting the Knowles of Hedley

I was vaguely aware that Thomas Cameron Knowles (T.C.) had

Former home of T.C.  & Thomasina Knowles, & their 5 children
Former home of T.C. & Thomasina Knowles, & their 5 children

played a key role in Hedley’s history. He was the Postmaster for many years and his wife, Thomasina, played the organ at the United Church for 60 years. Several members of the Knowles family are interred in the Hedley Cemetery. Those still living have re-located to other communities. Having become deeply intrigued by the fascinating history of this little former gold mining community and the people who made it their home, I hoped I might one day have a conversation with a member of the family, even if only by telephone.

Recently Linda and I attended a presentation about the “Hedley Boys”, young men who enlisted and saw combat in WW1. Andy English and Jennifer Douglass, two local researchers collaborated in meticulously gathering information about the lives and military contributions of these Hedley men. We learned that T.C. Knowles was one of the young men who served our country, participating in several major, well known campaigns.

We were sitting in the second row, directly behind a man and two women. All three were strangers to us. Leaning forward in their chairs, they were obviously totally focused and absorbed, not wanting to miss a single word spoken by Andy and Jennifer. They seemed utterly mesmerized by what was being said.

After the presentation we understood why they had been in the front row and had listened so carefully. The two women were Beverley and Anne, daughters of T.C. Knowles. The man was Gordon Lloyd, husband of Anne. They live in Kamloops and had driven here in the summer heat for this presentation. Much of the information on T.C. Knowles had come from Gordon.

After the 2 hour presentation we walked to the Museum with them. As we walked, Gordon pointed to the Hedley Fire Department. “The Red and White store used to be there until it burned down,” he said. “And next to it, where that new house is now, was the butcher shop.” Each of them recalled the town as they had known it when they were young. Both Anne and Beverley graduated from the Hedley High School several years prior to its closing in 1951.

We spent an hour with them over lunch at the Museum, and it was like striking Hedley gold. They were quite willing, even eager to share their knowledge and experiences. “We played ball with Jimmy Douglass,” Beverley said, referring to James (Jim) Douglass, author of the best seller, “JFK and the Unspeakable”. Memories from the past continued to pop up, still fresh and vivid in their minds. They had been at the Hedley cemetery the previous day and Anne named each member of the Knowles family laid to rest there.

Several days after our visit with them, Gordon sent an e-mail in which he mentioned Marlene, as though this was a name familiar to us. I wrote back saying, “I don’t know who Marlene is.” That evening I received an e-mail from Marlene, telling me she is a member of the French family. The Frenches, like the Knowles, are names of some renown in Hedley’s history. And both families understand that it is important to share their early memories so they will not be lost to future generations.

There are rich veins of history in this once bustling gold mining centre. We are fortunate that the Knowles and French families are opening the vaults of their memories so we can all benefit.

What’s Eating Us?

“What’s eating us! Is that an ant colony we’re standing on?”

"What's Eating Us?"
“What’s Eating Us?”

This scene was captured by Jean Robinson at the Hedley Museum’s Hawaiian Night celebration. We had enjoyed a lavish meal and now anyone wearing a Hawaiian shirt was called up. The ants, understandably, were miffed at us for invading their turf. These men were the unfortunate victims of their displeasure. Standing on the far left, I was quite oblivious of their bad luck. Was I just “in the right place at the right time?” None of us won the prize for the most attractive shirt. That went to a young lad who had the courage to wear a grass skirt as part of his outfit.

Down The Mountain On A Broom

IMGI have come to have a great deal of respect for the hardiness and ingenuity of the men who worked in the Mascot and Nickel Plate mines in the first half of the last century. The mines were high above Hedley and for those who had a wife and children in town, transportation was a constant challenge. According to historian Doug Cox, miners were allowed to ride in the skips used to transport ore down to the Stamp Mill. Permits were required, though,  and they were limited. Tough and determined, the miners resorted to innovation.

Cox says “some men got around the pass system by hiding near the upper ore bin until the skip had started down. Then they jumped on. The hitch hikers jumped off the skip before it reached the bottom ore bin and kept out of sight of the supervising staff. They skirted around the bluff, then down to the Hedley town site.”

In my opinion, it is the “broom riders” who were the most inventive and enterprising. In a letter to The Western in the June 20, 1990 edition, miner Bob MacRae (now deceased) wrote about placing a broom on one of the ore car rails and riding on it down the mountain. “This ‘broom affair’” he says, “consisted of a piece of rubber belting and a piece of tin channelled to fit the rail. It was nailed to an old house broom.” He wore old rubber boots for brakes and found that if he cut the handle off the broom, he could double his speed.

His record for a trip down the mountain was four and one half P0359minutes, including walking several flat stretches. On one occasion a worker had wiped grease on the rail and Bob’s rubber boot brakes became useless. His speed increased considerably. “I think I probably broke my record,” he says in his letter.

Bob’s sister Effie, a Hedley high school graduate, told me he had a good reason to rush down the mountain after work each day. “Bob had a new English bride from Manchester.” When I asked her if her brother had been a dare devil type, she said, “oh no, he was very cautious.” Possibly there were things about Bob that Effie didn’t know.

In time, others joined Bob in broom riding. Not all copied his more advanced innovation. Some just borrowed a broom and rode down.

Ken Jones, a former miner now living on Old Hedley Road, tried it once, “just for the fun. I couldn’t get the balance or the speed,” he told me. “It wasn’t for me.”

In time, company officials banned broom riding, but this left them short of more than 20 miners due to lack of transportation. To make up the deficiency they brought in a bus, and Bob MacRae was one of 2 drivers assigned to driving duties.

Bob’s description of this assignment suggests the bus ride may have been more dangerous than riding the broom. “Snow, ice, rocks, cows, horses and deer on the road with numerous blind corners made it treacherous driving,” he said. “There was times I wished I was riding carefree down the mountain on my broom.”

I wonder what present day union bosses and the WCB would have to say about this practise. Unfortunately, I have seen no photos of these ingenious, hardy men racing down the mountain on their brooms.

Down the Tram Line to Party

The following account was told to Ruth Woodin of Hedley, by her father-in-law Barry Woodin. He was battling cancer and near the end of his life. He evidently never lost his sense of humour. She says he was more of a father to her than her own father ever was.

Barry and Jean Woodin were in their early twenties and just married, ready to contend with any challenge life would present to them. Barry applied for a job at the Nickel Plate Mine near the peak of Nickel Plate Mountain. He was hired and they moved into one of the homes on the mine site, about 6,000 feet above sea level.

It was a delight to them when they learned that each Saturday night the mine provided a tram down the mountain to the Hedley town site. Workers and spouses could catch a ride in empty ore

Ore cars on exhibit at Hedley Museum
Ore cars on exhibit at Hedley Museum

cars. The ore cars were small, not equipped with seats, and not comfortable. It was simply a means of rapidly descending the steep mountain to enjoy an evening of partying in a more civilized setting. The ride down the mountain in what was essentially an open metal box was not for the faint of heart.

Former Tram Line on Nickel Plate Mountain
Former Tram Line on Nickel Plate Mountain

On their first Saturday at the mine, Barry burst through the door of their home after work and said, “hurry Jean, I don’t want to miss the tram!” Jean was doing her hair and pampering her face. “Leave me alone Barry,” she said. “I’ll be ready when I’m ready.”

After working in the mine all week, Barry was eager to get away and have some fun. “The tram won’t wait for us,” he told her. “If you aren’t done with your prettyin’ in time, I’m going on my own.”

Maybe she didn’t believe he’d go without her. Or maybe it was a young bride’s way of asserting herself. We can only guess at her reasoning but she wasn’t ready when it was time to leave. Barry had not been bluffing. “Good bye Sweetheart,” he said. See you later.”

He found a party and danced well into the night. Then, in the early hours of the morning, the tram rattled noisily back up the steep grade of Nickel Plate mountain, returning the weary but satisfied partyers. When Barry arrived at his front door, he fumbled with the latch. The door seemed stuck. Had he had one drink too many? After fiddling determinedly with the latch, leaning against the door, speaking to it in terms I won’t repeat here, he paused to consider.

After a moment of reflection he understood the problem. Fortunately, even with the cold mountain air nipping at his face and bare hands, he saw the humour in this. “She’s locked me out,” he said with a chuckle. “Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

He went to the mine workshop and found an axe. Returning to the house, he began chopping at the rear door, which was also locked, until there was a hole large enough for him to squeeze through. Before going to bed he hung a blanket to cover the opening. It would remain in place until he was able to find another door.

In spite of this incident, and probably at least a few more, Barry and Jean remained happily married until his passing at age 52.

When Barry finished telling Ruth this little story he said with a wink, “she was never late again.” According to Ruth, Jean never disputed any of the details of Barry’s story.


A Hot Summer Day In Hedley

July 12. It’s 11:05 in sunny downtown Hedley. 31 degrees on the front walkway, which is in the shade.

At about 8 a.m. Linda and I picked Saskatoons for breakfast. The air was still pleasantly cool when we sat on the side deck having Cheerios topped with slices of banana and Saskatoons. Usually breakfast consists of oatmeal with fruit, but now we choose not to warm the house with cooking.

We feel fortunate in being able to harvest the berries. Angelique bought this lot, which is directly across the street from her home, several years ago. The historic St. John’s church is on this site. Being interested in history, she commissioned our local historian, Jennifer Douglass, to research its past. Much of the lot is used for gardening and I have a pumpkin plant and about 12 potato plants growing on her huglebeet. Last year my pumpkin growing experiment there produced plenty of vines but only 2 pumpkins.

In spite of the Hedley heat, the two Cleopoatras and Miss Lonely Hearts enter the laying box faithfully virtually every morning. I stay away from their little domain until about 9:30 am. If they hear me while they are in the box, they abandon the laying because they think I’m there to give them their treat of dry oatmeal.

The girls are as seriously addicted to the oatmeal as an addict to heroin. The Cleopatras lay first, and while they are in the box, Lonely Hearts stands inside the gate of their fence, insistently calling for me to bring the treat. Then she goes into the box and the Cleopatras begin the vociferous pleading. Because Lonely Hearts is a slow layer, they become quite impatient. Although they have only small mouths, their volume is incredible. If we want to hear the computer, we have to close the rear windows.

Our small garden is doing well. We’ve finished eating the row of radishes. Lately it’s been bokchoy cabbage, spinach, beet leaves, arugula, kale, etc. Linda uses the produce in salads. I frequently snatch a leaf while working on an outdoor project. Marauding cabbage moths are a minor plague this year. Our neighbour Kim said moths and their dog Dixie have destroyed about 80% of their

Art Pursuing A Cabbage Moth
Art Pursuing A Cabbage Moth

garden. Last year I found a butterfly net with a long handle at the Princeton Dollar Store to snare the moths. My technique is improving and in spite of their clever evasive tactics, I’m averaging about a dozen kills per day. Of course, within 10 minutes of clearing the garden of them, another squadron swoops over the fence on either side and the destruction of plants continues almost without pause. Linda finds considerable humour in my wild leaping around and waving of the net. Fortunately as yet there is no “Moth Rights Society” here.

Due to the heat, Linda and I have been leaving for our walk at about 9pm. By this time the No See’ims are on the prowl. They must fast all day because they are ravenous. Currently we are experimenting with brown Listerine, rubbed on all exposed parts of the body. It does make a difference for about an hour. If we plan to stay out longer, we’ll have to carry the bottle with us.

I just looked at the thermometer. 37 degrees. A hot day in Hedley. It’s a good time to go to 20 Mile Creek and dangle our feet in the water.

Hedley Celebrates Canada Day

Art Martens with Constable Pankratz
Art Martens with Constable Pankratz

“Meet your Mountie” was definitely a crowd pleaser at the Hedley Canada Day celebration. The event, which took place at the

Hedley Museum, featured gold panning, face painting and a treasure hunt for the children. There was also music that might be described as a combination of old time, folk and blue grass. A hamburger and hot dog barbeque made it a complete day.

When Constable Anthony Pankratz of the Princeton RCMP Detachment agreed to pose for photos with celebration attendees, the response was enthusiastic. At 6 feet, 8 inches, he towered above those standing next to him for a picture. One enraptured lady looked up into his face and exclaimed, “oh, he’s cute!”

Later, in an interview with the festivities MC, he regaled the crowd with his impressions of life as a Mountie in the Similkameen Valley. He said “the biggest challenge that comes with being a police officer in a small town is that I know a lot of the people I have a responsibility to deal with.”

Just before the singing of “O Canada” at noon, Bill Day, a former Citizenship Judge, addressed the audience. The essence of his message was that, “ Canada has done many things right, but we have been very wrong in the way we have dealt with First Nations people.”

The musicians, Colleen Cox and George Huber are popular entertainers on the Blue Grass circuit. From 11 am to 2 pm, with a couple of intermissions, they sang and played such favourites as “You are my Sunshine” and “Country Roads.” George and Colleen’s passion for music and love of people, plus their engaging personalities held the attention of the crowd to the end. For the last few tunes they were joined on stage by talented local musician Eric Lance. Ben Murbach provided a delightful impromptu flute solo during one intermission.

Prior to the formal program, local historian Jennifer Douglass conducted a guided tour of Hedley. She has published articles on the area and provided little known insights into Hedley’s past.

The barbeque grill was ably tended by veteran hotel chef and camp cook, Jim Gray. With his stetson and massive greying beard, Jim could be mistaken for a cowboy philosopher. He is currently providing meals at the museum from 10 am to 4 pm. every day except Tuesday. Salads, pickles, tomatoes, watermelon slices and Canada Day cupcakes were provided by town ladies. Five cent ice cream cones were again a popular item.

Comments at the end suggested that everyone went home well fed and happy.

A Sunday In Hedley

Like every other day of the week, Linda and I began today with stretches and exercises. I was up earlier than usual and Linda doesn’t go to the Senior Centre for coffee Sunday morning, so we started at 6:45 am. Unlike every other day, I took half an anacin this morning. My body isn’t as limber as in the past and I’ve often considered anacin to make the workout easier. Until this morning, I’ve always resisted the temptation. I’m learning that holding age at bay requires a good deal of will and focus.

By 8 am the sun had popped over the mountain to the east and Linda asked if I wanted to have breakfast on the patio. We carried out our bowls of porridge, laden with Saskatoon berries and basked in the warmth of the sun. Clean air, birds chirping happily, the girls clucking after receiving their treat, mountains surrounding us. We have reason to be content and grateful.

At 9:15 we set out for the little church on Ellis Street. A 5 minute walk. Several people were away so, counting children, there were 17 in attendance. Pastor Graham entitled his message “The Scarlet Rope”. It was about Rahab, the woman who protected 2 Israeli spies and helped them escape from the city of Jericho. He emphasized that God can use us for a good purpose in spite of our past.

After the service most people stayed for coffee and cookies. I noticed little Evangeline, about age 3, tiptoe past me daintily holding the 2 halves of an Oreo cookie. She was licking the icing off the centres. A little later she came to me and offered me one well licked half. I accepted it but when she saw that I was just holding it in my hand, she said “eat it.”

For lunch we went to the Hedley Heritage Museum. Jim Gray serves food in the Tea Room from Friday to Sunday. Beryl joined us and we each had a very satisfying sandwich. We learned that Beryl and Bruce spent three and a half months in India some years ago. In addition to extensive travelling about the country, she volunteered in a Mother Teresa orphanage and fell in love with the children. I’m often surprised at what some people have done. Most of us probably need to take a few more risks to enliven our existence.

Usually we walk along 20 Mile Creek to the Big Rock which is at the far end of the meadow (actually what is left of a tailings pond from gold mining days). Today Linda suggested a hike along the Similkameen River. We saw some Saskatoon bushes with nearly ripe berries. Doesn’t look like it will be a bumper crop though. When we returned home Linda prepared dinner while I began writing this post.

It wasn’t an exciting Sunday. Most Hedley Sundays are not. A few people in town may have gotten aroused by the soccer games being played in Brazil. Probably not many though. Haven’t heard any talk about it. I suppose we prefer to live our own lives rather than sit in front of a television, watching others live theirs. For Linda and me, it was a satisfying day.


James Douglass: “JFK And The Unspeakable” (part 1 of 3)

Jim Douglass, author of"JFK And The Unspeakable"
Jim Douglass, author of”JFK And The Unspeakable”

James (Jim) Douglass was born in Princeton, B.C., lived in what later became known as “the Hedley Pub”, and spent time in jail for participating in a number of high profile protests against the US war effort. He also wrote “JFK And The Unspeakable”, a best seller detailing the reasons and cover-up of the Kennedy assassination. With that on his resume, he isn’t likely to get a government job. Fortunately, he has no plans or desire to apply.

In a two hour phone interview with him from his home in Birmingham, Alabama, Douglass spoke freely about the early years in Hedley, his work on behalf of the Peace Movement and his 6 books, including the best seller.

Initially his father was Manager of the Nickel Plate Mine in Hedley, and they lived in what was then the Mine Manager’s residence. In 1942, when Jim was 5, the family moved to New York where his father became Vice President of the Kelowna Exploration Company. The family continued to value its connection to Hedley, however, and frequently returned in summer. Jim recalls playing tennis on the court across from the Colonial Inn.

As a young man, Jim’s life began moving in quite a different direction from that of his father. “We had a good relationship,” he says, “but in discussions we were always at opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Hedley View "It's the most beautiful place in the world."  Jim Douglass
Hedley View “It’s the most beautiful place in the world.”
Jim Douglass

In 1966 he bought a house in Hedley so he and his family would have a place to stay, while he wrote his first book. “I still consider Hedley my home,” he told me, “it’s the most beautiful place in the world”. His daughter, Jennifer, now lives in the house.

One summer he coached the Hedley youth baseball team and remembers a tied game in which longtime local, Derek Lilly was on third in the 9th inning. “I told him not to steal”, he said, “but there was a wild pitch and Derek stole home, scoring the game winning run. He was a splendid athlete.” Jennifer remembers with evident pride that he was an organizer of the May Day parade one year. This later became the Stamp Mill celebration.

Douglass prepared diligently for his far ranging and unusual career. After receiving a BA from Santa Clara University, he completed an MA in Theology at Notre Dame. He also studied theology in Rome. While there, he lobbied Bishops attending the 2nd Vatican Council, asking them for a statement condemning total war and supporting conscientious objection.

It was while he was teaching theology at the University of Hawaii that the trajectory of his life took a dramatic turn. “It started when Martin Luther King was assassinated. In response to his death, several students in my class refused to be drafted for the Vietnam War. They burned their draft cards and they challenged me to live the theology of peace I was teaching. I joined the Hawaii Resistance and shortly after, I was sitting on the pavement in front of a convoy of trucks carrying National Guardsmen going to Vietnam.”

In 1977, Jim and his wife Shelley cofounded the Ground Zero Centre for Nonviolent Action adjacent to the Trident Nuclear Submarine Base near Seattle. According to his daughter Jennifer, “the cloak of leadership in these protests was placed on him.” His acts of civil disobedience concerning the Trident protest netted him some 15 months in prison. He was also jailed for resisting the Persian Gulf War.

In the midst of various protests he returned to Hedley to write three books and most of a fourth. “There were fewer distractions,” he said.

James Douglass: “JFK And The Unspeakable” (part 2 of 3)

Insightful Bestseller About JFK Assassination
Insightful Bestseller About JFK Assassination

In “JFK And The Unspeakable”, Douglass takes us step by step through the thinking, motivation and actions of John Kennedy. “The president’s inaugural address,” Douglass says, “reflected his horror of war, (which came from personal experience), and his passionate resistance to a totalitarian enemy.” Douglass also explains the reasoning, motivation and culture of the CIA and Pentagon which led them to the conclusion that the President of their nation must be eliminated.

Using declassified documents from the Warren Commission hearings, interviews with some employed in the security agencies at that time (including Abraham Bolden, a black former Secret Service agent), plus a variety of other sources, Douglass has unravelled a web of intrigue that is unfortunately still being ignored by the media.

The CIA and the Pentagon began to seriously turn against their President when he refused to commit American forces to an attempted invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles in April, 1961. The attempt was sponsored, planned and backed by the CIA, and Kennedy had reluctantly sanctioned it. However, he had informed Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, that if things turned out badly, American troops would not be deployed to ensure success.

Douglass says the CIA overlords schemed to entrap Kennedy so he would have to support the invasion if it floundered. However, even though Fidel Castro’s forces over powered the invaders, JFK remained adamant in his refusal to send in troops. “That was the first instance in which Kennedy refused to do what his military advisors wanted,” Douglass suggests. “There would be many more.”

Kennedy understood that the CIA bosses had attempted to deceive and ensnare him. The conflict between him and the Agency deepened when he began to redefine and reduce its power and budget. According to Douglass, the President’s determination to deal with the CIA placed him in direct conflict with a Cold War institution that had come to hold itself accountable to no one. His later firing of Dulles, Bissell and Cabell would intensify his conflict with the Agency.

“In the Cuban Missile Crisis” Douglass says, “Kennedy took a step that the military considered an act of treason. He turned for help to his Communist enemy, Soviet Nikita Khrushchev. He asked him to withdraw the Soviet missiles from Cuba in exchange for his secret commitment to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey, alongside the Soviet border. He also promised publicly not to invade Cuba. The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were furious. Kennedy and Khrushchev were becoming partners in peace making.”

A further crisis with his Cold War advisors resulted from the President’s address to the graduates at the Commencement Ceremonies of the American University in Washington, D.C. JFK called for World Peace and an end to the Cold War. This further incensed the CIA and Pentagon chiefs. “In their minds,” Douglass says, “Kennedy’s views placed him on the side of the enemy.”

Another issue in the minds of the CIA and Pentagon was the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by Kennedy and Khrushchev. This development angered the Military Industrial Complex.

Finally, there was the President’s move to initiate a dialogue with the despised Fidel Castro. Also, National Security Memorandum 263 to end the Vietnam War.
“Those were the final nails in the President’s coffin,” Douglass says.